Bengali Annaprashan | Mukhe Bhaat - Baby's First Rice Feeding Ceremony

Annaprashan or Mukhe Bhaat is an elaborate ceremony for Bengalis, in which the baby is fed solid food for the first time.  All family members, relatives, friends, and neighbors attend this occasion to get a sight of the baby taking his first morsel of rice. For baby girls, odd months that are 5th or 7th, and for baby boys, even months, 6th or 8th, are considered auspicious. The priest fixes this auspicious date based on Panjika/Panji(Hindu Astronomical Calendar).


Bengali Annaprashan or Mukhebhaat
Bengali Annaprashan


In the morning, turmeric paste is applied to the baby, and then the baby is given a bath. In some cultures, the ritual, first shaving of a baby's head, takes place on this day.


Mukhe Bhaat
Turmeric Paste


Baby boys are made to wear Dhoti- Panjabi, and Topor, a type of headgear used by Bengalis. Baby girls wear small-sized red sarees or red lehenga- choli and white/gold crown or headband. Sandalwood paste (Chandan) design on the forehead of the baby completes the look. In general, the Annaprashan ceremony takes place at home, and a community lunch or Bhoj is arranged at a banquet hall. 


rice feeding ceremony
Topor

The rice feeding ceremony ritual is usually offered by the maternal uncle, Mama. Alpona, a white liquid paste of rice and water, is painted using fingers at the ground where this ceremony takes place. Varieties of food are prepared for this occasion. Rice, Spinach, Five kinds of fried vegetables(brinjal, potato, ladyfinger, Pointed Gourd or Potol, pumpkin), vegetable curries, chutney,  sweets, sweet curd, and lemon(Gondhoraj Lebu) is offered to the baby on a bronze/silver plate. In some cultures, non-vegetarian dishes like fish are also included. The baby sits on his maternal uncle's lap, and he feeds him a spoon of Payesh, a preparation made of rice and thickened milk.


Alpona
Alpona

It is believed that if the baby wails after seeing the food, then in her last birth, she was born in a wealthier family. Anyways, after seeing so many relatives all at one go, generally, most of the babies cry. In some Bengali cultures, mothers can't watch this ceremony. After this, family members and relatives give blessings to the baby. 

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In a fun-filled ritual, the baby is encouraged to choose an object from the plate. The items include a book, pen, gold, soil, food, etc. The first object picked by the baby symbolizes his future. The book/pen denotes knowledge and wisdom. Gold symbolizes wealth. Soil means they will be lucky with the property. Food signifies the characteristics of empathy and charity.


annaprasana items


 Annaprashan's invitation cards of various cartoon characters and Hindu Gods are available in the market. These days, some people also choose online cards. Cards can also have baby poems.  Some people prefer to attach the picture of the baby in Annaprashan's invitation. While some refrain from this, as in general, people do not keep the invitation cards with care. 

Annaprashan theme decorations are quite a trend. Kids love the decorations using multi-color balloons. Themes based on the latest cartoon characters like Chotta Bheem, Chutki, Baby Panda, and Peppa Pig or Jungle look are great party themes. 


annaprashan ceremony decorations
Annaprashan ceremony decorations


In the old days, bronze utensils were the most common Mukhe Bhaat gifts. Bronze metal is called the healthiest, and Ayurveda suggests that bronze vessels have health benefits. Villagers and small-town people still follow this tradition. Close relatives also like to gift gold/silver ornaments such as baby chains, finger rings, baby bracelets, armlets, and crowns. In West Bengal, Jewellery shops offer a range of gold/silver ornaments of various designs for babies. 

Johnson's Baby Gift Set pack has become a repeated gift these days. The gift pack contains all essential items for babies. A variety of baby toys like baby gym, light and music toys, soft toys, and the baby walker can also be gifted.


Also Read: Khirer Putul Story In Short | Bengali Folklore For Children


Generally, the Annaprashan ceremony is quite overwhelming, and babies become very tired after this ceremony.

The next day of the Annaprashan curd-rice(Doi Chire) ceremony happens. The baby is fed curd and puffed rice.  After Annaprashan, another ceremony called Mamabhat takes place at the maternal uncle's or grandparents' house. The ritual is that the baby must be fed rice both at his home and his grandparent's home, after this rice diet can be started.


  


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